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I'm a little confused as how to approach this.. the correct answer almost felt like it was strengthening the conclusion, but this is supposed to be a weaken question?

Sorry if this is a dumb question, I think "incomplete" question types confuse me!

 Adam Tyson
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That IS a weird question, akanshalsat! Yes, it is a weaken question, because the author seems to be concluding that the ONLY reason a hard track is faster is due to the amount of time the runner's foot stays in contact with the running surface, and we want an answer that shows that is NOT the only reason ("evidence that the explanation given above is only a partial one"). So, while we are strengthening the claim that a hard track is faster, we are demonstrating that the author's reasoning is incomplete or insufficient. Very odd, and we haven't seen many like it over the years.
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Hi, I also had trouble with this question because of the way it was asked. I was looking for an answer that would weaken the argument, so the speaker would have to provide a more complete answer. So, I eliminated C, as it would strengthen the argument.

The speaker never claimed that the reason they provide is the ONLY one, but Adam states that the wording of the question stem implies that that's what the speaker meant, and so we should be looking for an answer choice that strengthens the argument. Does that mean whenever I see an "incomplete" question stem like this, I should know it is a strengthen question? In LSAT-world, is every explanation for A > B a partial explanation if it doesn't include every reason that A > B is true?
 Robert Carroll
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As Adam indicates, we haven't seen many like this, so, while you and I both want to make sure we're ready for this in the future and understand exactly what it's trying to ask, it's practically very unlikely we'll see anything like this on a future test. With that in mind, let's look at this one.

The question is indicating that the explanation is "only a partial one". If the author thought his explanation WAS only partial, then how would the stimulus have been different? I think it would have said something like "At least one reason that a hard surface makes for faster running" or "running is faster on hard surfaces in part because" or something similar. That the author did not include such qualifying language is a pretty good indication that the author thinks his explanation is complete.

I think another unusual thing about this question stem and stimulus combination is that you're not really weakening the conclusion of the argument. Instead, you're weakening the sufficiency of the evidence given to support that conclusion, and not trying to undermine the conclusion itself. In effect, you're weakening an argument that says what the stimulus said, and then adds "And there is no other reason that running is faster on hard surfaces."

We also actually have to strengthen the "hard surfaces make for faster running" conclusion in order to show the explanation is only partial. If we weaken that conclusion, we're not showing that the explanation is only partial - we'd be undermining the explanation entirely, making it NOT EVEN partial.

A question that I think is similar in spirit to this one is here: viewtopic.php?f=660&t=10630 For that question, we're trying to strengthen the argument, but do it in a specific way; in the question we're talking about in this thread, we're trying to weaken the argument, but not in a way that weakens the conclusion. It's odd to have such a constraint on how you weaken or strengthen an argument. Normally, to weaken, you just make the conclusion less likely; to strengthen, you make the conclusion more likely.

Robert Carroll

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